Greece votes Sunday in a general election that could prove inconclusive, with the leading candidate, conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, unlikely to garner a lead wide enough to avoid a new vote.
However, a new election system based on a simple proportional system and the parties’ apparent unwillingness to cooperate means that a second round of voting in July is all but certain.
The winner of Sunday’s election will have three days to negotiate a coalition with one or more other parties. If that fails, the mandate to form a government is then given to the second party.
But deep divisions between the two main parties and four smaller ones expected to enter parliament mean a coalition will be hard to come by, making a second election likely on July 2.
The second election would be held under a new electoral law which makes it easier for a winning party to form a government by giving it a bonus of up to 50 seats.
A total of 36 parties and party coalitions are running. Parties that receive at least 3 percent of the vote will share 285 parliamentary seats according to their percentage of the vote.
The remaining 12 seats will be divided among state deputies elected by each party, and the last three will be filled by candidates elected by Greeks voting abroad.
The voting process began on Saturday with the votes cast by Greeks registered to vote abroad.
9.8 million voters are registered to elect the deputies of the next Greek parliament. Of this number, 400,000 are first-time voters.
21,529 polling stations in Greece opened at 7:00 on Sunday and will shut at 19:00 on Sunday evening.
Economy, rail disaster, wiretapping scandal dominate elections in Greece
Mitsotakis, whose New Democracy party shows a drop in popularity following the deadly railway accident at Tempi on February 28, seeks to put behind him the anger sparked by the loss of 57 people.
He is also trying to defend his handling of the wiretapping scandal that has rocked the political establishment since the summer of 2022.
He is campaigning on the back of four years of tax cuts, tourism revival and steady growth, and has warned denying his New Democracy party a strong mandate would lead to “paralysis” at a time of international uncertainty.
Greece goes into the polls in fairly robust economic health, with unemployment and inflation falling and growth this year projected to reach twice that of the bloc.
But economic issues remain squarely in focus even though a post-Covid tourism revival helped Greece book growth of 5.9 percent in 2022.
The outgoing prime minister has urged voters not to squander hard-fought economic stability. But his key opponent, the former leftist premier Alexis Tsipras, has warned that the rosy hardline figures belie growing poverty as wages fail to keep pace with rising prices.
The outgoing premier says he has delivered on his previous electoral promises of lower taxes, tougher immigration rules and steady growth.
“We will continue with building a new Greece,” Mitsotakis vowed at his last rally on Friday before a campaigning blackout until polls open at 7:00 am on Sunday.
But Tsipras has accused Mitsotakis of promising “better jobs and wages, only to have the middle class live on coupons”.